5 Reasons the Dallas Cowboys Will Beat Kansas City Chiefs
This will be a stiff test given the crowd noise that will undoubtedly be present for the Chiefs home opener this year. A team that went just 2-14 last season is already halfway to last season's win total, even if that Week 1 victory came against the next worst team in the NFL last year.
News bulletin for new Kansas City head coach Andy Reid: Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert is not Dallas Cowboys counterpart Tony Romo. In fact, Romo is almost better when not even playing than Gabbert is when the former Missouri Tiger is on the field.
The Cowboys' Week 1 victory over the New York Giants was impressive in some ways, but it was also alarming in others. I have already discussed why Dallas will likely drop this game to the Chiefs, but this time I'll point out exactly how Dallas can win this game.
The biggest concern coming into this contest is the health of Romo, who suffered bruised ribs against the Giants. This concern grows when considering that the Kansas City defense sacked Gabbert six times in its regular season opener in Florida.
If the Dallas offensive line can keep Romo standing up for most—or all—of this game then the Cowboys have a much better shot.
If the Cowboys can accomplish the following goals then Dallas will fly back home 2-0 and feeling pretty good about itself before hosting the St. Louis Rams in Week 3.
All stats courtesy of ESPN
Cowboys Fans in Arrowhead
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Yes, the Cowboys are America's Team not so much because they win a lot, like in the 1970s, but rather because they have the largest professional sports fan base in the United States.
I have seen two Dallas road games in my life, at Phoenix and San Diego, and it was amazing how many Cowboys jerseys were in attendance at both games. It truly is a credit to the popularity of this franchise and a unique phenomenon.
Arrowhead Stadium will be packed on Sunday afternoon, but unfortunately for Chiefs fans, there will be an obnoxious and somewhat offensive invasion of Cowboys fans that will take a considerable bite out of the noise factor.
Arrowhead has a capacity of 76,416 for Chiefs games. Against most other opponents, it's a safe bet that around 68,000 to 70,000 fans in attendance are there to support the local team wearing tomato-red and yellow.
On Sunday, the number of Kansas City supporters at the game will drop substantially. I would estimate, based on experience, that anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 Dallas fans will litter the bleachers with lots of white and navy blue jerseys.
Now, Cowboys fans will help to reduce the noise level at the stadium when Dallas has the ball, but it won't be very much. However, when Dallas makes big plays on either side of the ball, the noise factor will be noticed, guaranteed.
If the Cowboys play well enough then the mood in the stands will change dramatically in leaving only that numerous minority of Dallas supporters heard, perhaps when KC has the ball while trailing.
There's no getting around the fact that Chiefs fans will be extremely loud to begin the game, but that doesn't at all mean that the contest has to end that way.
While we're not likely to see quite the number of Dallas fans at Arrowhead that I saw in San Diego in 2005 and Phoenix in 2002, this ubiquitous advantage for the Cowboys could definitely help a Dallas team that is urgently trying to build consecutive victories to begin 2013.
Dez Bryant Will Play
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The Giants managed to bottle up Bryant in the season opener last weekend at the stadium formerly known as Cowboys Stadium. The fourth-year veteran caught just four passes for 22 yards against an overmatched New York secondary that focused primarily on Dallas' most potent weapon in the passing game.
Expect more of the same from Kansas City—you don't seriously think that cornerback Brandon Flowers can cover Bryant all afternoon in man coverage, do you?
According to DallasCowboys.com's David Helman, Bryant's mild ankle sprain won't be a factor in this contest, although I don't know exactly how true that is.
Bryant boldly stated that his foot “feels great” and that there was never a concern about his availability for the Chiefs game.
Even if Bryant is limited in this game, the truth is this: It may not matter how many catches or yards Dallas' top wide receiver gets against KC. It might be enough that Bryant simply straps on a helmet just after kickoff, a sight that's guaranteed to keep Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton very uncomfortable, even if he thinks his units are prepared.
I don't expect Sutton to rely solely on Flowers to blanket Bryant unless it becomes obvious that No.88 is a ways off from 100 percent. In this case, Romo can exploit other mismatches in the middle of the field, just as he did last week in hitting tight end Jason Witten for two touchdowns against New York.
Expect the Chiefs, who do have better corners than the Giants, to still put lots of attention on Bryant like New York did.
This should play right into the hands of the Cowboys should the Dallas offensive line protect Romo better than last week. In this event, it would be redundant to point out the kind of day that wide receiver Miles Austin had the last time he suited up at Arrowhead Stadium.
It might not be the day for Bryant to breakout, but the Dallas offense definitely brings more offensive weapons to this game than the Chiefs. The Cowboys simply have to take what Kansas City gives them.
Defense, Defense, Defense
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We saw it for much of the preseason, and the regular season, so far, has shown that it was no mirage.
The Dallas defense was a turnover machine against the Giants in finishing plus-five in turnover differential against the Giants. That figure leads the league by far heading into Week 2. The Cowboys picked off Eli Manning three times and recovered three fumbles.
Now, it's true that Dallas also ranks 30th in the NFL in total defense, but I don't expect the big plays racked up by New York to be repeated by a Kansas City. An offense led by quarterback Alex Smith, an improved quarterback that was ushered out of San Francisco last year in favor of current 49ers passer Colin Kaepernick, just doesn't look that potent.
So far, the absence of defensive end Anthony Spencer and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff hasn't seemed to hurt the Cowboys, and I'm not sure that this is the week that it does. The Chiefs offensive line is headed towards being very good with a number of young, blue-chip players from tackle to tackle, but KC will bring banged up running back Jamaal Charles into this game and this could be music to the ears of the Dallas defense.
With an ailing Morris Claiborne at cornerback, the Cowboys need turnovers every way they can get them, and it's very clear that this is not the old, tired and leaky 3-4 scheme from years past. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has preached taking the ball away since his arrival early this year and his players are following suit.
Having a healthy DeMarcus Ware always gives the Cowboys a shot and it will do so again this week. Don't be surprised if Dallas moves Ware a time or two to take advantage of Kansas City rookie right tackle Eric Fisher, the first-overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft.
Finally, the best number posted so far by the Dallas defense is 50. That's how many yards Kiffin's unit allowed on the ground to a Giants offense that historically prides itself in running the ball.
The Chiefs are generally similar and that doesn't figure to change a whole lot under the Reid regime. Stopping the KC rushing attack will be job one for a defensive unit that doesn't just seem to be flourishing in its new 4-3 scheme, it is flourishing and in a big way.
Return of Lance Dunbar
Second-year veteran running back Lance Dunbar has been a full participant in practice this week, and it looks as though he'll be ready to backup starter DeMarco Murray in Kansas City. This could be a difference making development for the Cowboys.
Having the quick-footed Dunbar back from his preseason foot injury means yet another weapon that Romo has at his disposal, at least in certain situations.
While not getting much action as a rookie a year ago, and none to this point in 2013, Dunbar is a dangerous ball-carrier in space, and this was shown throughout the preseason.
Dunbar can run the ball inside or out and also catches passes well out of the backfield, a skill I suspect could be on display against a Chiefs defense that will have its hands full already with receiving threats like Bryant, Austin and Witten.
I'll go on to speculate that rookies Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar, along with wide receiver Dwayne Harris, could also create some headaches for KC.
Dunbar is a guy that can go the distance from anywhere, and he might actually line up as a kick returner in this game. It would be good to see him get a handful of touches on offense as this will help keep the Chiefs defense honest.
Running back Phillip Tanner was far from impressive against the Giants in carrying just one time for two yards. Even worse than his number of carries and subsequent yards gained was the fact the fumbled on that lone carry, likely the main reason he didn't carry the ball again.
This game will be all about keeping the Kansas City fans as quiet as possible—nothing does that like big plays. If the Chiefs devote the kind of attention to Bryant that I suspect, Dunbar could be left all alone a few times in the flat with only a linebacker available to bring him down. T
he Cowboys certainly hope that this scenario goes down on Sunday.
Arrival of Brian Waters
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Never mind the multiple surgeries undergone in the last year and a half by 2012 free-agent offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau. This expenditure has had question marks surrounding it since it took place not two years ago.
Mr. Bernadeau, step aside please.
The Cowboys signed semi-retired offensive guard Brian Waters, ironically a long time member of the Chiefs, to a one-year contract worth up to $3 million as the preseason ended earlier this month.
Middle linebacker Sean Lee offered the following to the Ben and Skin radio show on Dallas-Ft. Worth radio station KRLD regarding a major benefit of signing the Pro Bowl lineman who was named the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year:
Apparently, when he first got in the weight room, one of our coaches asked him, 'well, what do you want to put on the bar?' He said 315. He's like, 'Oh, you want to go to 315?' He said, 'No I want to warm up with 315.' I think he worked up into the low 400s and casually hit five or six reps, racked it and walked away. He just casually pumped it out, no big deal, set it up, walked out. Everybody was just kind of in awe.
Just a matter of weeks ago, former Cowboys offensive guard and tackle Larry Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Much of what got him there was his freakish strength that allowed him to bench press 700 pounds in the prime of his illustrious career.
I'm not going to bet that Waters has the same kind of strength, but he's the kind of powerful blocker that Dallas hasn't had since, well, since Allen.
Waters may or may not play the entire game against the Chiefs, but I expect to see him on the field, especially given the size and power that will be present in second-year veteran nose guard Dontari Poe on the Chiefs defensive line.
Remember that rookie center and first-round selection Travis Frederick will have Poe lined up right across from him all day Sunday. Having Waters available to help push Poe off the line of scrimmage will be crucial for a Dallas rushing attack that was committed to moving the ball against the Giants last week.
I already pointed out that the best way to keep the Kansas City fans quiet on Sunday is to make big plays.
The next best way is to keep the chains moving and to maintain possession of the ball—Waters, despite not playing football in a long time, could very well be the guy that helps that effort most upfront.